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Michael Doss

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Laura Browder


Jeannette Walls‟s The Glass Castle, an American memoir published in 2005, recounts the troubled upbringing of the four Walls children, who consistently struggle with economic disadvantage and parental instability. Moving nomadically across America to areas ranging from the deserts of Arizona and California to the hills of West Virginia, Walls and her siblings overcome their obstacles by moving to New York and creating new lives there. This movement delineates the Walls children‟s escape from troubled conditions while it also mirrors their impulse toward individuation. Walls recounts the development of her individualism against the backdrop of her parents‟ unconventional behaviors, such as her father encouraging his daughter to pet a caged cheetah or her mother encouraging her children to shoplift. These behaviors expose the Walls children to neglect. However, Walls‟s depiction of her parents does not simply portray them as sources of abuse. While they are selfish and endangering, the Walls parents also provoke their children‟s curiosities, providing them with the romanticized past of nomadic survivors.1 Walls‟s mother, for example, encourages her children to read and Walls‟s father takes his daughter demon-hunting through the desert to assuage her fears of the unknown. The conflicting images of Walls‟s parents serve to complicate their role in their children‟s lives; nevertheless, Walls uses her ambiguous presentation of her parents‟ behavior to justify the Walls children‟s impulse to distinguish themselves ideologically and socially.